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David Miller: Founder’s Interview

In 2015, the SCC is celebrating its 40th anniversary. In 1975, fifty-seven Saskatchewan artisans organized themselves into a determined force with a single voice and a common purpose. That purpose was to promote and raise the profile of Saskatchewan artisans, improve the quality of work produced, and facilitate communication among the membership. Each of these people donated just $5 to this cause and the Saskatchewan Craft Council was born. You can read more about our history here.

Our board members and staff have come together to conduct interviews with as many of these founding members as we can, in celebration of this milestone. We are interested in these founders’ thoughts around why we came into being and their insights for the future.

David Miller

David Miller began his career as a luthier — a wood artist specializing in acoustic stringed instruments. After working in this field for about 15 years, David switched his career direction and began working as a physiotherapist. David is married to SCC artist Cathryn Miller, and he helps her operate her publishing house Byopia Press. Although David may no longer be a practicing professional craftsperson, he has continued to support and be involved in the Fine Craft community since he helped found the SCC in 1975.

What compelled you to throw your $5 and yourself into creating a new organization dedicated to supporting craft?

As a builder of acoustic stringed instruments —and particularly one specializing in “early music” instruments of the 16th to 18th centuries— I did not have a lot of colleagues in Saskatchewan with whom I could trade ideas, inspiration, sources of material, or marketing plans. Peter Sawchyn had established himself building high quality acoustic guitars in Regina, and Glen McDougall of Fury Guitars in Saskatoon had long been building extraordinary electric guitars, but each of them were pursuing goals of sound and aesthetics quite distinct from what I was seeking. Being a luthier in Saskatoon in the 1970s was a professionally lonely life; what I hoped to find and foster as a member of the Craft Council was a shared passion for craftsmanship, no matter what the medium. I wanted to keep company with people who cared about their work and were prepared to make whatever sacrifices were required in the pursuit of outstanding quality.

I also wanted to encourage the province to develop into a place where there was as much appreciation, respect, and financial reward for a first class craftsperson as there was for a good plumber or construction worker.

What are you most proud of over the last 40 years?

My career as a luthier lasted a bit more than fifteen years before a new road beckoned and I switched horses and moved into health care. New horse — same direction: I was still trying to do the best work of which I was capable, and to make the world a little better place with my efforts.

So what’s made me proud over the past 40 years? Nothing, I hope — pride is the first of the Seven Deadly Sins and I think humility is a more appropriate goal. But what has satisfied me? The same thing as a physiotherapist and as a luthier — I did my best; sometimes I got it right.

What has disappointed you?

Craft has never gone mainstream. The people of Saskatchewan (and the governments they elect) still seem to value plumbers above potters. In the 1970s, I hoped to see more people dedicating their working lives to the creation of something worthwhile and of high quality, but if anything it seems that the pursuit of affluence has become even more dominant as people’s chief motivation.

What are your hopes for the future?

An end to Harperite Conservative government. (Hey, you asked.)

What are you doing to celebrate Craft Year 2015 and our 40th anniversary?

I will continue to celebrate Saskatchewan’s extraordinary craftspeople and their production of fine crafts every year, by treasuring them as an essential part of my life. This year, as every year, I will endeavour to support, and occasionally assist, the creative work of my extraordinary book artist partner, Cathryn Miller.

But the best way to celebrate the crafts is by making things: I plan to braid together some long-practiced skills of writing and photography with a new undertaking of drawing … and see if something worthwhile comes of it.

Any other thoughts?

My wish for the dedicated and creative craftspeople of Saskatchewan: live long and prosper!